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The Surface Transportation Board (STB) yesterday announced it adopted final mediation and arbitration rules that establish a new arbitration program aimed at helping shippers and railroads voluntarily arbitrate certain types of disputes with clearly defined liability limits.The changes to existing mediation rules establish procedures through which the STB can order parties to participate in mediation in certain types of disputes on a case-specific basis.The adopted rules reflect the board's attempt to facilitate alternative dispute resolution in lieu of formal agency proceedings, wherever possible, STB members said in a press release. Board members believe the new program will be more useful to both shippers and railroads by providing a dispute resolution process that's less time-consuming, expensive and adversarial than the formal adjudicatory process."Changes to the arbitration rules are intended to consolidate and simplify formerly separate arbitration procedures and to encourage greater use of arbitration," STB members said. "In the new rules, the board identifies specific types of disputes eligible for the new arbitration program and establishes clear limits on monetary amounts in controversy."The program adoption follows the board's August 2010 decision to obtain and analyze public input on ways to increase the use of mediation and arbitration, a March 2012 notice of proposed rulemaking and a late 2012 review of testimony provided at an August 2012 public hearing.
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